I booked an "oppa" for my birthday. Here's what happened
It's been almost ten years since I fell in love with everything Korean.
Fresh out of college, one of my first jobs is to teach English to Koreans. At first, I told myself that I wouldn't be too involved with the culture. I was studying for my Master's degree at that time and even when I started to fall in love with Korea, I consciously rejected the idea of shifting out of my major (Southeast Asia) to Korean studies.
My love for Korea started when a student taught me how to read and write in Korean. Being a history and culture buff, I started falling in love with everything about South Korea with every letter and word I learn from my "teacher."
I started listening to K-pop, and then I started watching Korean dramas. I started eating Korean food and even ~daydreamed~ of having a Korean boyfriend.
One of the first things I learned about Korean culture is that they take age and titles seriously. Even an age difference of two years would put one at a higher "level" than the younger one. Thus, it is important to take note of certain terms for certain people.
It is at this point that I learned about the Korean terms oppa (오빠), unnie (언니), hyung (형) and noona (누나). Oppa is used by females when referring to older males, while unnie is used by females when referring to older females. Hyung, on the other hand, is used by males when referring to older males, and noona, for older females.
Aside from being used to call older males, oppa is also often used in Korean dramas as a term of endearment for boyfriends (as it is more common for the male character to be older than the female character). It is also common for the male characters to ask their women to call them "oppa" in a cute way once they get into a relationship.
In the Philippines, some people mistakenly think "oppa" translates to boyfriend, so it is common to hear people blurting out "Oppa!" whenever they see a cute guy passing by.
The popularity of oppas to tourists and fans led a company to allow tourists to pick their oppa and let them bring one around Seoul.
Oh My Oppa first gained attention early this year when they started posting photos of the oppas on social media.
However, it was only last April when they started the actual service.
According to it's website, Oh My Oppa is "the NO.1 Korean private tour platform. You can book a Korean Oppa as your travel friend in Korea."
I knew I had to try this service on my next trip as soon as I saw it. And since I'll be in Seoul on my birthday, I knew who I will be spending it.
To book an oppa, you need to create an account on their website. Then you can browse through the photos to pick the perfect oppa for you.
Prices range from $70 to $160 depending on the itinerary. They can also bring you and a friend to famous amusement park Everland, and customize your own itinerary as well.
I originally wanted to tour Hongdae with my chosen oppa but unfortunately, both my choices were fully booked on my birthday.
I didn't give up and sent them a message. The people behind the website were very accomodating and even offered to arrange a special tour for me with one of their guides.
I opted to go on a tour to Gilsangsa Temple with Hue. It was not my first time in Seoul so I've been to some of the areas before, but I haven't been to this temple.
THE FIRST "DATE"
I was both excited and nervous when I arrived in Seoul a few days before my birthday. I told friends about my "date" and even asked them not to judge me for availing of the service. I also made sure to sleep early the night before my birthday so that I won't be late for my meeting.
Hue sent me a message on Kakaotalk the night before, introducing himself and reminding me of our meeting.
On the day of our meeting, I went to Digital Media City to buy some souvenir items for friends. I also received an emergency message from the government (written in Korean), supposedly telling people to avoid going outdoors as it is the hottest day of the year (so far). It wasn't until I met Hue that I was able to understand the message sent to me though.
I was on my way out of the station when Hue informed me that he is already waiting for me. We finally met outside the station and walked toward the bus stop to wait for our bus.
While waiting for the bus, Hue and I talked about random things. I told him abour my love for K-pop (and Big Bang), and he told me about things about himself. In less than five minutes, I learned that we are almost of the same age, and that he served as part of the police force for his mandatory military service.
Our bus arrived and we talked some more. It was at this point that he told me about the emergency message they received, and he also explained that what I received was the same warning.
Aside from the two of us, most of the people inside the bus were ahjummas and halmeonis going to the temple. It was really hot that day and I didn't quite understand why they were outside when the government clearly told them to stay home.
According to Hue, he grew up in this neighborhood so he is quite familiar with it. He even pointed out his old school and the schools his friends went to while we were on the bus.
After a few minutes, we finally arrived at Gilsangsa Temple. It was a good decision to pick the temple tour over the other tours as it was very hot that day. Compared to visiting the other destinations, it is more comfortable to walk around the temple area, which had a lot of trees.
We decided to sit down under a tree in front of the temple while Hue told me about the brief history of the temple. Compared to other temples, Gilsangsa used to be a restaurant called Daewongak. It was donated to the monks and was opened as a temple in 1997. Hue also told me a little about the owner of Daewongak, and about the popular monk in the temple.
The temple area was huge, and it took us more than an hour to go around the whole area. By that time, we were a bit more comfortable talking to each other. Hue said his English is not that good, but I would like to believe otherwise.
Before leaving the temple, Hue asked me if I want to take photos. I took out my camera and took a few snaps. He also offered to take my photo, but I declined. I told him I don't usually like having my taken since I travel alone. He tried to convince me, telling me that it's now my chance since I'm not alone anymore. We ended up leaving the temple without taking any photos of ourselves. 😁
While waiting for the bus, Hue asked me if I like bread. I don't really like bread but I told him, yes, I like bread, because he told me he'll be bringing me to a popular bakery.
He also told me that the area a few blocks away from the temple is considered a "high-end" area and that Korean actor Bae Yong-joon lives there.
(Hue, likewise clarified that he is just from a normal [not rich] family even though he lives in the same town. 😁)
The bus arrived and we took it to our next destination: Napoleon Gwajajeom, a Michelin-starred bakery.
We spent a few minutes browsing for bread (there were a lot!) and since I am just ~pretending~ (미안해요!) to like bread, I just picked the prettiest one. I also know he'll be paying for it so I took the price into consideration as well.
I was craving for some iced coffee so he brought me to the bakery's second level where they also serve drinks. I got an iced Americano for myself and he got himself some fancy iced tea.
We consumed our drinks while we talked some more. It was at this point that I learned that he manages a coffee shop and this is the reason why he doesn't like coffee. He also told me that he stayed in Japan for three years, and that he finds working at and managing a coffee shop is really difficult.
Hue told me we will be going to another place before going back to the train station, where we'll part ways.
After taking a rest at the bakery, we started walking again under the heat of the sun around Hyehwa area, where he told me that some Filipinos set up shop during weekends. We also saw a Filipino restaurant (Kainan sa Hyehwa) and I explained to him that one would only know it's a restaurant if they're Filipino.
Our second destination that day was Hyehwamun, one of the eight gates of Seoul. A map in the area showed where the other gates, the fortress wall and the palaces are located.
It was past two in the afternoon and the sun was at its peak but we went up the wall and I decided to take more photos.
Hue also took a photo of me taking photos, because maybe they are required to show some photos after the tour.
After exactly two and a half hours, we parted ways at Hyehwa Station. Hue told me he have another tour to go to, and apologized for not having enough time to spend with me. He then shook my hand before leaving.
It took me a while to process everything that happened that day. It was my birthday, and my friends were expecting me to post photos of my "date." Unfortunately, my awkward and introverted self forgot to ask Hue for a photo, and I felt like I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I don't get the chance to take his photo.
So the moment I arrived at my guesthouse, I checked the website again and booked another two and a half hours with Hue.
I know, I'm the worst kind of stalker one could have.
THE SECOND "DATE"
We went through the same process for our second meeting. The night before, he sent me a message, thanking me for choosing him again. I was busy watching street performers in Hongdae that I just sent him a simple "Of course." and he replied with "See you tomorrow."
For our second "date," I opted to go to Ikseondong, a quaint alley near the palaces with traditional coffee and tea shops. I was not expecting anything grand with that tour, as my only goal is to see Hue again and get to spend more time with him.
Unlike our first meeting, I arrived 45 minutes earlier. I had nowhere to go so I decided to drop by nearby coffee shop.
We met again at exactly 12 noon. Hue told me he's already at our meeting place, and we passed by Insadong on our way to Ikseondong.
Hue was obviously more comfortable talking to me this time around, as he even told me about the web ad he did for Innisfree. He told me I wouldn't be able to find the video, but being who I am, I suceeded in finding the video. 😂
We also dropped by Tapgol Park, and he showed me some of the notable items there. I originally intended to document the whole "date" this time, but as usual, my introverted side kicked in and I was not able to take photos nor videos.
Our first agenda when we arrived at Ikseondong is to look for a coffee shop to stay in. However, this proved to be a daunting task as there were a lot of people, and I didn't want to spend time in a crowded area. We ended up going in circles, and at one point I think he thought I got angry at him (I was not angry) since he kept on asking me to chose a place.
We ended up at Seoul Coffee 1945. We were lucky to be among the first few customers who entered the shop as soon as it opened. I order an iced flat white, while he went for a green tea - milk- espresso drink.
As soon as we got our drinks, I took out my phone and asked if I could take a photo of him. He is also super shy, but he agreed to have his photo taken.
We spent more than an hour in the coffee shop just talking about everything. I talked about Big Bang and my favorite actors, and he also talked about his preferences. He also told me that he used to be part of a band, and I learned that he has the same height and weight as V of BTS. 😁
In case you are wondering, this is how Hue looks like:
Most of my friends agree that he's cute. One of them even told me he has this unique boyish charm.
I booked an "oppa" for my birthday and I ended up getting slightly heartbroken.
The whole experience felt like a blind date to me. I just went through with it, without expecting anything.
To be be brutally honest, I did expect to get something out of the second date. I would have wanted to keep connected to Hue, and to consider him as a new friend.
Hue, however, doesn't like any form of social media so the only way to continue talking to him is to book him for another tour. I believe he also does this to keep everything on a professional level. I'm fine with that, but I stalked him for a few days after our "date." 😁
If you're going to ask me if I'm going to do it again, I'll tell you that I'd definitely will. If only my friend wouldn't judge me for being a very creepy stalker, I would want to book a tour with Hue again on my next trip. They, however, are telling me not to. 😁
I personally considered my time with Hue as a friendly date with a cute Korean man. It was fun and I really enjoyed talking to him.
I don't know if I have the authority to recommend things/services like this but I think this is an experience fan girls like me should try once in their lives.
However, here's a tip. If you're someone who easily gets attached (like me), prepare for a heartbreak.
(Full disclosure: I do have a boyfriend and I told him about everything before I booked for this service.)